The icy bite of winter. Frosty mornings and bitter, arctic winds. Snow falls. While for us it makes the warmth of our centrally heated homes an attractive prospect, our garden has become more of an allurement for the local bird population; a place of enticing eatables. These winter months have been a never ending source of avian activity and entertainment for us.
At first the bird station offered feeders of the RSPB recommended wild-bird seed and sunflower hearts. It soon became apparent that the latter was the food of choice! We had birds with a selective, and not inexpensive, palate! Having read that dried meal worms attracted robins we started putting those out.
Our robin has shown some interest, winged in and taken the odd morsel: a blaze of red framed in a warm brown coat, he perches on stems and birdbath as if posing for a Christmas card. However, these dried meal worms, along with fat pellets, have proved an irresistible feast for the starlings. They queue up first thing in the morning and as soon as the titbits are out they descend en masse! A frantic flurry of iridescent feathers! A push and a shove! Never mind jumping on the next bird! Heads bob up and down like pneumatic drills, gorging on worms and pellets. No worry about any food being left on the ground feeder for rodents – lucky if it lasts a half an hour!
Then there are our blackbirds; sometimes as many as six. The males with fanned tail feathers, and testosterone charged stances, black heads and yellow beaks lifted high, appear interested in both food and females. In the apple or cherry tree they perch like sentinels, surveying their territory. Having stripped the pyracantha of its berries they are now enjoying the meal worms. Its feasting manners are more refined, bobbing in to take just one.
Meanwhile the female blackbirds seem distinctly uninterested in the advances of the males. Gold finches (twelve the other day) add bright flashes of red and yellow, feasting happily on sunflower hearts, spilling on the ground as much as they eat, while they turn to look around. Never mind, the wood pigeons will come in and hoover up the spilt seed. Dunnocks, an unobtrusive dull brown bird quietly weaves its way through the honeysuckle and behind the dead shrubbery.
There are others too like our two dunnocks who can easily be missed, inconspicuous in their brown feathers against the dark brown soil, the black cap and reed bunting, as they search for food amongst the dead foliage. Even more secretive is our wren. We know it is there. Occasionally you get a small twitching, an upright tail, a momentary flash of brown – one minute there and the next you are left asking yourself if you really did see something.
Chaffinches are a real flutter of feathers, a blur, as they dart in and out, snatching seeds from the bird feeders. And we must not forget the jolly, chirpy sparrows that are becoming a more regular sight in the garden. You might glimpse a quick visit from the magpie. I believe our local shop, which has a very good line in reasonably priced bird, food is doing very good business. Sometimes I wonder whether the birds are in his pay!
Andrew is a friend and supporter to Living Paintings
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